Slingblade was filmed in Arkansas in 1996, but people still call the Arkansas Film Commission office to ask for directions to the Old River Bridge in Saline County that was used in the movie. And Big Banjo Pizza Parlor in Dumas was made famous by the movie Mud, filmed in 2012.
“We haven’t hit the big one yet. We’re still looking for the quintessential Dyersville, Iowa. I mean, who ever heard of Dyersville, Iowa, until they made that little film there,” says Arkansas Film Commissioner Christopher Crane, referring to Field of Dreams. “Dyersville still has about 100,000 tourists going to that field they built for the film every year, just in the name of tourism.”
Tourism is an ancillary effect of filmmaking, but it’s one not to be underestimated.
“The pizza joint in Dumas had its best year ever because of Mud,” Crane explains. “So what does he do? He needs new furniture so he goes down to Joe’s Furniture Shop and buys all new furniture. And then that dollar gets circulated – Joe’s Furniture Shop has a great year and Joe goes out and buys all new electronics and that dollar begins to circulate within the local economy and truly does impact that local economy.”
Crane, who took office in 2007, lobbied the Arkansas legislature to establish incentives for filmmakers who bring their movies to Arkansas.
“We were one of two states in the United States without any film incentives – and it was us and Delaware at that point,” says Crane.
In 2009, legislation was enacted creating the Arkansas Digital Product Motion Picture Rebate, a 20 percent rebate on goods and services, as well as a 30 percent work force rebate for Arkansans hired.
“Every Arkansas hire has a 30 percent rebate attached to it,” Crane explains. “That’s an incentive for them to hire our local talent and that gives our local talent experience as well as the monetary results and then their resumes start to grow and then they become the A-list crew members that we need.”
During the push for rebates, Crane had been in conversation with writer and director Jeff Nichols, who had expressed interest in filming Take Shelter in the state.
“It didn’t really happen in the time manner that he needed it so Take Shelter was shot elsewhere,” says Crane.
That led to discussions about Mud and by that time, the rebates were in place.
“It’s that long-term effect that we’re going for. We’ve got some projects building up that are hopefully going to be very big for tourism. We’ve seen a little impact from God’s Not Dead 2,” says Crane. “At the end of God’s Not Dead 2, we partnered with Parks and Tourism and put a ‘Come Visit Arkansas’ DVD extra at the end and that’s starting to garner some interest.”
Pure Flix just opened production offices for the third installment of God’s Not Dead and is set to start filming the first week of October, Crane says.
Crane can’t share details about upcoming projects until everything is finalized, but he was scouting locations somewhere around Fordyce with a female director and producer this week.
“It’s a really cool script,” he says. “It’s set in the ‘60s and it’s about a strong-willed young lady and it’s sort of a Southern Gothic film,” he says.
That’s just one of the film projects Crane is working on.
“We’ve got some other big projects on the horizon,” he says. “I think we’re close to some really big projects that we’ll be able to announce.”